Violence in protest a nuanced discussion
Re: “Foster doesn’t speak for this law-abiding Canadian” (online letters, March 2)
Violence in pursuit of a political cause is a fairly nuanced issue, but the context of Mr. Foster’s letter was clearly referring to senseless, counterproductive acts solely in the present day, such as arson of an apartment under construction in Minneapolis, the smashing up of several Starbucks locations in the U.S., and the breaking of things and deaths at the U.S. Capitol. There is a saying, “There are no bad tactics, only bad targets.” At least when BLM protesters were attacking police stations and courthouses, those were the correct targets; I’ll give them that.
Historians disagree on whether the violence by a segment of the Suffragettes was in any way effective, given that a bill to give women the vote in the United Kingdom in the early 1900s got even less support than a previously proposed bill, immediately after a campaign of arson and assaults.
Some people cherry-pick a quote from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.: “Riots are the language of the Unheard”, trying to make it sound like Dr. King supported violence. He was actually saying that the best way to prevent riots is fixing the conditions that people were rioting against. Violence certainly doesn’t help gain sympathy for the cause when there’s a particular stereotype about certain people being predisposed to violence, as this causes Confirmation Bias in those who are bigots, and may persuade others to believe the stereotype as well. Besides, when peaceful protest is met by violence and forceful tactics like fire hoses and dogs, it creates sympathy from the general public towards the protesters. This makes the violence perpetrated by the government to be counterproductive.
There are some situations where violence may be the only answer, such as war, grievously unsafe workplaces, or literal enslavement. War between different countries is in no way the same as political protest; for it is against another governmental entity that one has no internal influence over. But bear in mind, within a country, protest of ANY kind, violent or not, will only prevail against a democratic government with a moral conscience. The exception is when an undemocratic, immoral government can be completely defeated using violence – which is why such governments always disarm the citizens. Protests have never worked in countries where the government has the absolute means to subdue the citizenry, no interest at all in listening to the will of the people, and no moral qualms whatsoever with engaging in massacres to maintain the status quo. Think Tiananmen Square in 1989.
Those who claim only violent protests are effective remind me of a meme I saw on the internet of a picture of Mahatma Gandhi and the words: “Peaceful protests don’t work” at the top and at the bottom, Gandhi: “Am I a joke to you?”
April J. Gibson